New ultrasound method as effective as MRI in diagnosing prostate cancer
Researchers in the UK have demonstrated a new kind of ultrasound scan can diagnose prostate cancer with accuracy equal to costly and time-consuming magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The findings offer clinicians an easier way to quickly test patients for clinically-significant prostate cancers.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to appear in men. It is a slow-growing cancer and it's been estimated that one in five men will die with some form of asymptomatic cancer in their prostate.
Diagnosing prostate cancer can be difficult. Generally the first diagnostic method is a digital rectal examination to physically identify any prostate abnormalities. Another tool doctors have available is a blood test looking at levels of PSA – a biomarker that can identity the presence of prostate cancer.
The problem with a PSA blood test is that it can often pick up signals of prostate cancer at very early stages. This leads to unnecessary treatment and anxiety in patients.
MRI scans are the most effective current tool to assess the clinical significance of prostate cancer. These scans can identify whether a cancer needs urgent clinical treatment or should be left alone for the time being.
“MRI scans are one of the tests we use to diagnose prostate cancer,” explained lead author on the new study Hashim Ahmed. “Although effective these scans are expensive, take up to 40 minutes to perform and are not easily available to all. As cancer waiting lists build as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real need to find more efficient and cheaper tests to diagnose prostate cancer.”
The new method developed to investigate prostate cancer is called multiparametric ultrasound (mpUSS). The test uses a probe inserted into the rectum to image the prostate through a variety of ultrasound techniques.
A new study published in the journal Lancet Oncology has reported results from the first large-scale trial validating the efficacy of this ultrasound test. The trial recruited several hundred men at high risk of prostate cancer. Each participant was given MRI and mpUSS imaging, as well as subsequent biopsies to verify the severity of any cancers detected.
The findings reveal the new ultrasound method was almost as effective as MRI in detecting clinically significant cases of prostate cancer. The ultrasound method detected 4.3 percent fewer cases compared to MRI. But, the ultrasound method did catch a small volume of clinically significant prostate cancers that the MRI scans ultimately missed.
The researchers conclude mpUSS can be used as an effective alternative diagnostic tool to MRI. This finding is particularly important as ultrasound technology is cheaper, faster, and much more widely available than MRI.
“Our study is the first to show that a special type of ultrasound scan can be used as a potential test to detect clinically significant cases of prostate cancer,” Ahmed said. “We believe that this test can be used in low and middle income settings where access to expensive MRI equipment is difficult and cases of prostate cancer are growing.”
The new study was published in The Lancet Oncology.
Source: Imperial College London